For many years I've been publicizing the sales, marketing and overall business case for layering a catering program on top of your existing multi-unit restaurant operation. I believe strongly in the year-over-year sales lift that a solidly executed catering program can provide.
Yet, in order to fully sell your catering service, and to capture those transactions at the point-of-purchase, you will need to apply the business logic and technology to keep this aspect of your business organized and streamlined.
As restaurant operators, we are sunk into our POS systems as the core technology infrastructure for our restaurants. Because of this, many restaurateurs believe that POS integration is a requirement when it comes to catering; however, in my nearly 20 years experience at MonkeyMedia Software, I can tell you confidently that POS integration is not required for the successful execution of the catering transaction.
Today's point-of-sale systems have not been built with the right business logic needed to succeed in the catering market. As you approach the business logic for catering execution, consider that your POS cannot manage the conversational ordering or the batch manufacturing and distribution requirements that are so integral to the successful catering transaction. POS was designed for a retail transaction, not a business-to-business transaction.
Because catering orders are taken online and by telephone, conversational ordering systems are needed during the catering transaction so you can provide your catering customers with a consistent and predictable order experience.
From the beginning, you will need an order-entry system to generate invoices, statements, collection notices, and to manage accounts receivable. Naturally, the system must also extend into your production and distribution process. It's important to understand that order fulfillment for a catering transaction follows a different internal dynamic when it comes to making and delivering your products to your catering customers. POS is designed to fulfill one single transaction at a time and when it comes to catering, we are facing a micro-batch production dynamic.
I am clear that POS systems are not geared to handle the subtleties of each catering transaction and that they do not have the right business logic to properly and effectively service the catering channel. Catering is about relationships and to be successful, your sales teams need the appropriate customer relationship management tools that POS systems cannot provide.
In our world at MonkeyMedia Software, our products stand outside the POS and our customers use our technology to focus solely on the catering transaction. POS is not required.
Now, as part of a successful enterprise deployment of catering software in your ecosystem, allow me to move the conversation to reporting. We do need to continue to find ways to report catering data into the overall restaurant's IT infrastructure in order to scale. In many instances, we can look to an end of day catering process where we drive the day's catering transaction data back into the POS ecosystem, not for the execution of orders, but simply to report data in real time to your management team. This is where POS integration can play a role in the catering transaction.
Catering software: What to consider
The right software will ensure that the correct data is gathered from your catering client at the point of order capture. Additionally, once fully deployed, the catering software system should be fully integrated with your back-end reporting systems, where it makes sense. Your catering software system should be web- and enterprise-based, and should be standardized to easily share data across your entire organization. This will provide complete transparency into your catering business and will provide the organizational framework to grow catering sales while feeding customers where they live, work and play.
Erle Dardick is a 15-year catering veteran, business turn-around expert and author, and is best known for helping multi-unit restaurant executives create successful catering revenue channels. Erle founded MonkeyMedia Software to provide catering solutions to multi-unit restaurant operators. He also is the author of “Get Catering and Grow Sales! One Monkey’s Perspective: Catering Defined for the Multi-Unit Restaurant Executive.”